Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Neil T. Anderson and Dr. Charles Mylander's book, Experiencing Christ Together: Finding Freedom and Fulfillment in Marriage, (Regal Books, 2007).

You can try any kind of strategy to improve your marriage, but nothing will work unless you first get your own relationship with Christ right. Instead of focusing on what to do about your marriage, focus on who Christ wants you to become, and everything else in your life – including your marriage – will be impacted. Once you embrace the freedom Christ offers, you’ll be able to embrace your spouse with more love.

Here’s how you can find the freedom to work on a better marriage:

Pray for the right motivation. If you haven’t already done so, begin an eternal relationship with Christ by inviting Him to become your Lord and Savior. Ask Him to help you show your gratitude for all He has done for you by honoring Him with your marriage. Remember that your spouse is made in God’s image, just as you are. Decide to accept your spouse as God has accepted you. Commit to becoming the type of husband or wife God wants you to become.

Deal with conflict wisely. Recognize that conflict is an inevitable part of life. Understand that you can best resolve conflict successfully when you and your spouse both hear and appreciate each other’s perspectives. Approach conflict constructively by: listening carefully to each other, speaking the truth in love while refraining from destructive words, working together with a cooperative spirit to search for a win-win solution, following God’s leading when making decisions, avoiding attacking each other or becoming defensive, focusing on the issues, and remembering that your marriage is more important than the need to win or be right.

Understand gender differences. Know that men generally long to achieve, produce, and succeed, but women generally long to nurture relationships, care for others, and create welcoming homes. Realize that men tend to share information to try to solve problems, while women tend to share feelings about issues. Understand that men thrive on action, but women thrive on communication. Know that men are sexually aroused primarily through physical images, while women are sexually aroused primarily by loving words and actions. Realize that men need sex in order to feel love, but women need to feel loved in order to have sex. Understand that men will respond to stress by taking time out to be alone, while women will respond to stress by sharing their feelings with others. Ask God to help you appreciate the differences between you and your spouse, and help you use them to encourage and help each other become more together than what either of you could be alone.

Put your relationship with Christ first. Recognize that you have to be complete and healthy in Christ before you can build a whole and functional marriage. Read the many promises in Scripture that remind you that you are accepted, secure, and significant because of Christ’s work on the cross. Make your relationship with Christ your top priority, so you can become the spouse that God wants you to be. Don’t look to the world for fulfillment. Instead, embrace your identity as God’s beloved child who can let God’s love flow through you to your spouse.

Strengthen your character. Expect God to use your marriage to transform you as a person and help you grow to become more like Christ. Understand that the more spiritually mature you become, the more you will be able to love your spouse. Rather than focusing on how you would like your spouse to change, recognize that you only have the power to change yourself, and focus on that. Know that by changing yourself, you’ll be changing the relationship dynamic of your marriage and inspiring your spouse to decide to change. Be willing to forgive your spouse and meet his or her needs, as God leads you to do so.